Hello.

International Developments

❖ Last week, al-Nusra Front in Syria formally linked itself to al-Qaeda. Bloomberg thinks this somehow makes it easier for the US to distinguish which  Syrian resistance groups the US “can arm and work with” (as though the arms and groups will stay put).  Meanwhile, the US is “training rebels in Jordan” and intends to “start sending nonlethal aid directly to the Free Syrian Army”.  Looking more like a quagmire every day.

❖ A “Syrian opposition group reported shelling in the Damascus suburbs” by the Syrian Air Force.  Concerns are that a Battle for Damascus may commence.

An Islamist extremist leader, possibly involved in the US Embassy attack in Benghazi, has been shot in Libya and is in an intensive care unit somewhere.

❖ Uh-oh. “An Egyptian court has ruled that ex-President Hosni Mubarak should no longer be held over the killings of protesters during the revolution that toppled him.”

❖ “Hamas Military Wing Damages Gaza Heritage Site“, which is just part of the problem.  Palestinian archeological treasures are being destroyed, compromised and ignored although there is a government ministry that should be protecting them.

❖ Haaretz:  “Turkey warns Israel against ‘dirty bargaining’ over Gaza flotilla compensation”.  Also, “Turkey first state with ambassador to Palestine”.

❖ “Iran successfully tests three new missiles”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, wrapping up his Asian tour, says the US is considering direct talks with North Korea–”under the right circumstances.”

International Finance

❖ “French government ministers have revealed details of their personal wealth as part of efforts by Francois Hollande to regain public trust.”

The US sends Israel $3 bn yearly–at a time when “Israel is surging ahead economically” and showing signs of accelerating growth.

❖ “A former senior trader at Credit Suisse Group pleaded guilty on Friday to charges that he fraudulently inflated the value of mortgage bonds as the housing market collapsed”.

Money Matters USA

Joseph Stiglitz must read:  “What should shock and outrage us is that as the top 1 percent has grown extremely rich, the effective tax rates they pay have markedly decreased.”  Result:  “among the advanced industrial countries, America now has the highest income inequality and the least equality of opportunity.”  Much, much more.

Why privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority? “[B]ecause its capital expenditures are counted as part of the federal deficit”?  I.e., thanks to an accounting maneuver, we’ve got to privatize it?  Seems something’s rotten here.

Citigroup enjoyed a $3.8bn profit during January-March, 2013.

❖ “The New York Fed’s ‘Empire State’ general business conditions index fell to 3.05, from 9.24 in March”, which seems to have caught the expert unawares.

❖ First the batteries in the 787s, now “potentially faulty parts” in the tail section of the Boeing 737s.

Politics USA

❖ Just how deeply divided is the Obama administration over the issue of whistleblowers?  Over using the Espionage Act against a whistleblower, equating whistleblowers with spying?

❖ Progress Kentucky didn’t handle the Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s campaign discussion tape very well, thus enabling McConnell to shift attention away from the heart of the matter.

❖ “Limiting voter participation in elections is anti-democratic . . . [and it] certainly reinforced the impression that Republicans are hostile to those voters [minorities, the young and the old].”  Also, “It didn’t work.”

❖ “Louisiana House Buries Jindal’s Last Hope To Repeal Income Tax”.  Heh heh.

❖ What a surprise!  “Rep. Michele Bachmann will attend the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher”.

A former justice of the peace could be a suspect--though not yet charged–in the killings of Kaufman County, TX Deputy District Attorney Mark Hasse, District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia back in February and March.

Justice USA

❖ ”DNA may be the building block of life, but can something taken from it also be the building block of a multimillion-dollar medical monopoly?”  The Supreme Court is considering whether Myriad Genetics should be allowed to patent “two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer”.

The Supreme Court  “decided not to hear a challenge to a New York state law” regarding permits for concealed carry of guns.

Health, Homelessness & Hunger

❖ “The rejection by several Republican-led states of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to provide health-care access to millions of America’s poor isn’t just partisan politics; it’s immoral.”

Inspiring effort in Rhode Island, reaching out to poor people with diabetes and other, often multiple diagnoses (mental health, substance abuse, medical), typically homeless, and working aggressively with them, saving lives and money.

❖ Despite their rhetoric, turns out few businesses are likely to “drop coverage of their employees as a result of Obamacare.”

The War on Women

Pope Francis has wholeheartedly embraced the War on Women,  releasing “a doctrinal report drawn up under his predecessor Benedict XVI that accuses the largest group of nuns in the United States of holding ‘radical feminist’ views”.

Working for A Living

❖ “[T]here are currently 4.7 million workers who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks.  And new research suggests that employers will almost never consider hiring them.”

Wal-Mart and Sears “have so far declined to join Li & Fung Ltd. and other companies in voluntarily compensating” the victims of that horrific garment factory fire in Bangladesh last year.

Planet Earth News

A clean (including antibiotics-free) pig farm, part of a cooperative, that is manageable, profitable and sustainable!

❖ ”Kansas’s Self-Destruct Button: A Bill to Outlaw Sustainability”.

❖ During the first three months of 2013, Portugal’s “renewable energy supplied 70% of total consumption.”

Mixed Bag

❖ RIP, Maria Tallchief, classic Firebird.

George W. Bush:  ” . . . some people are surprised I can even read.”  Huh?  Who could ever forget “The Pet Goat”?

Two black males with first-class tickets were told by US Airways to change clothing–that “jeans, hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps violated an alleged first-class dress code.”  Imagine their surprise when they saw two white males sitting in first-class, “wearing almost the exact same outfits”.

Break Time

Always Alright